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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Grad students bond over quilting

Paula White has a lot of experience with quilting. She has been practicing the craft all her life, and it has been in her family for five generations. Now the Northwestern graduate student can show off her skills to the Northwestern Graduate Student Quilting Guild, a new student group started at the beginning of the school year.

“A lot of people look at quilting and say, ‘I would never do that, it takes so much work,'” said White, an MFA student in creative writing. “But I think it’s fun.”

White said her biggest quilt was 100 feet long and added that she has had exhibitions in different Chicago museums.

While White is an experienced quilter, many of the Quilting Guild’s members are beginners, said Stacey Standridge, founder of the group and its current treasurer.

Founded on a Graduate School Community Building Grant, the group is using the $1,800 on sewing machines, rotary cutters and other supplies to get first-time quilters introduced to the basics, President Linda Williams said.

This academic year, 26 grants were given to different graduate student group proposals. The purpose of the grant is to bring graduate students together in a social context and promote artistic expression, said Penny Warren, assistant dean of student life and multicultural affairs.

“It is meant to encourage students to meet who may not ordinarily meet,” Warren said. “An art historian may not get to meet a mechanical engineer.”

The Quilting Guild is succeeding in taking students out of the academic setting and encouraging social communication.

“We got some funding so grad students can get out of the lab, out of the library, and get to know each other,” Standridge said.

Some members said they like having a group setting to work on quilting craft projects.

“It’s good to have other people around doing the same thing,” said Josh Vura-Weis, a graduate chemistry student. “The tech part isn’t that hard. It just takes a lot of time.”

Vura-Weis is currently working on a quilt that is four feet by six feet.

“I like doing crafty things,” he said. “It’s a fun way of creating something big and beautiful.”

Another member said working with others can be a bonding experience.

“I’ve been doing it for six or seven years now,” Williams said. “I started by myself, it’s nice to have a group to show off to (and) learn new techniques.”

There are approximately 30 people on the Quilting Guild’s listserv, and about 11 people consistently come to meetings, Standridge said.

Currently, the group is working on a charity project to make “lap quilts” for residents in a local nursing home to wear over their wheelchairs. The group purchased enough fabric to make 12 quilts to donate, Williams said.

“I just like being able to make something that’s useful – everyone likes blankets in Chicago,” Williams said.

Future projects include quilted holiday ornaments, bookmarks and postcards, Williams said.

In addition to quilting for charity and personal interest, White is taking this hobby a step further – her thesis for her MFA in creative writing is about “quilting and healing.”

“I’m writing about how people have used quilting to work through a loss or crisis,” she said. “Quilting can distract from physical pain and keep someone psychologically sane.”

White said she has used quilting to relax and endure tough times.

“It’s one of the few areas of life where you get to do what you want to,” she said. “And if it doesn’t work out, it’s just fabric!”

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Grad students bond over quilting